Disruption can be defined as “interrupting the normal progress or activity” and that is exactly what many companies are experiencing. Industries are being redefined, products redeveloped, but in the end, is it just better customer experience? The intention of this paper is to put the customer in focus once again. Wealthsimple, Whole Foods and Netflix might be disrupting their industries but what they have really done is gone back to the basics by aligning business objectives with their constantly evolving customers’ needs. Creating great customer experience doesn't have to be a hassle. Delivering a unique, personalized experience by identifying consumer need is a winning formula.
In 1995, Clayton M. Christensen introduced us to the term ‘disruptive technologies’ to describe the situations where existing markets, incumbents and value chains are displaced by new entrants. As marketers and strategists, we fully embraced (and essentially branded) this thought-provoking catch phrase. We have used it to describe the shift in a broad range of categories from entertainment to hotels, to transportation and even clothing. And yes, in a keynote presentation or client meeting, nothing beats a reference to disruption - it’s future focused, challenging and edgy. But does the word disruption do justice to what is really happening? Is it too limiting? Is it too negative? Is disruption consumer-centric - a view where we as marketers and champions of the customer experience should live?
The following highlights were found in a consumer survey conducted by American Express Canada in 2014, stating the importance of customer experience:
- 76% of respondents said they’ve spent more with a company because of a history of positive customer service, and on average plan to spend 12% more.
- 57% said they had walked away from a business transaction or purchase in the past year due to a poor customer service experience.
- 40% of Canadians believe businesses are paying less attention to customer service (more than any other country surveyed) and only 2% think companies exceed their customer service expectations.
- 94% said they talk about their service experiences, even if they aren’t positive. On average, Canadians said they tell eight people about a good experience and 17 about a bad one.
Out of curiosity, when we asked Canadians to describe disruption, the responses were, in fact, anything but positive. Chaos, annoying, interruption were the top billing words. Even Donald Trump made it to the list. Hardly terms we would associate with the experiences created by brands like Amazon, Shopify, or Wealthsimple.
By contrast, when asking 500 Canadians what one word they would use to describe companies like Uber, Netflix and Whole Foods, the words that surfaced leaned to the positive and the beneficial. Words like revolutionary, innovative, good, progressive and many others were mentioned. Very few called the companies disruptive. This makes sense because these types of companies set out to improve the consumer experience and it is working.
By no means is this paper intended to create yet another catch phrase or to rebrand disruption. The intent is simply to remind us to reframe our thinking when it comes to these tectonic shifts in traditional categories. These shifts are brought about by advancing technology, changing consumer expectations and companies that identified gaps in the consumer experience and chose to fill them. To bring this to life let’s look at how three such companies, Wealthsimple, Whole Foods and Netflix, redefined categories based on consumer demand for an improved experience.